Virtual Teaching and Learning

#OLTAK Discourse, collaboration and technology


This week I found myself so far behind the curve with all of the reading assignments in the two classes, work and consulting that I didn’t know how I was going to pull any of it off. I even considered dropping a course…However, it’s far too late in the semester for that and I’m too far invested in the work I’ve already done!! So, that being said, sorry for the late post!!
 The role of discourse in an online learning environment seems to be far more challenging than in the traditional classroom setting. However, through blogs, WIKI, and other online tools, discourse between students and instructors is becoming far more accessable. One of the components of our reading that I found interesting was the discussion of our internal dialogue or “inner speech”(Harasim, P.90). As noted in our readings this week; Vygotsky’s 1962book, Thought and Language, makes the argument that thought is inner conversation with ourselves, a collaboration turned inward: “The relation between thought andword is a living process; thought isbornthrough words. A word devoid of thought is a dead thing, and a thought unembodied in words remains a shadow” (Harasim, 2012).
I spend a lot of time talking to myself in my head…this week, I’ve been trying to wrap my head around all of this reading and trying to figure out a better way to study. Dr. Graham gave me some sage advice and reminded me that I don’t have to necessarily remember and understand everything I read right then and there; the discourse we have as a class through blogging on points that each of us (the diverse lot that we are) glean from the assignments and the feedback we give one another will help me better understand the material and gain a broader, and even different perspective. Whew! I was feeling like a sinking ship!
All of that brought to mind a Fine arts (philosophy, literature, art history, etc.) course my sister took through APU where the teaching format was presented through Socratic discussion. In the Socratic method, the classroom experience is a shared dialogue between teacher and students in which both are responsible for pushing the dialogue forward through questioning. The “teacher,” or leader of the dialogue, asks probing questions in an effort to expose the values and beliefs which frame and support the thoughts and statements of the participants in the inquiry. The students ask questions as well, both of the teacher and each other (Ross, 2003).
My sister would come home and regale me with excitement how she had learned so many different points of view and explained a complete understanding of the philosophies and information they were covering. I personally am able to more deeply understand the subject matter through, in addition to reading, the ideas and perceptions that the rest of the class brings to the table.
Our world is rapidly becoming more technology-centric and I thnik it’s important that instructors embrace the internet and find a way to reach out to their students and elicit conversations so that they feel an intricate part of the learning process…perhaps it would create a better buy-in.

Harasim, L. (2012), Learning Theory and Online Technologies, London: Routledge

Ross, V. (2003) The socratic method: wht it is and how its used in the classroom. Speaking of Teaching, Fall 2003 V13(1). found at


3 thoughts on “#OLTAK Discourse, collaboration and technology

  1. I agree that we gain a greater understanding of the ideas and concepts put forth in the books by reading what our classmates have to share. I come from a math and science background and there is not much classroom collaborative creation of new knowledge in those fields. So the concepts that are being presented can be a little foreign. There is a massive online program designed to get public help to design proteins.

    This is the collaborative production of knew knowledge in chemistry!
    So, it is good that I can learn from the expertise of fellow students.

    • Wow! What a perfect example of how something that could potentially boggle your mind can be turned into a learning experience by making it a game! 🙂

  2. Naomi,
    I appreciate the idea of Socratic discussion and questioning and I often wonder how to integrate it into the virtual realm in a fluid way. The only success I’ve had is through Skype group discussions with students (for some reason our forums don’t seem to be the place of discussion I thought they’d be). Thinking about Socratic discussion and questioning, do you think social media has helped or hindered the process of Socratic discussion? Do you think virtual teachers even bother to apply it in their classrooms? Do you see it as something you might apply in a virtual classroom?

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